You’re not alone; half of college students struggle to battle the blues
Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect all aspects of a person’s life. It’s generally characterized by feelings of sadness and pessimism, but it can also include a number of physiological symptoms, including changes in appetite and bodily pain.
Exactly what causes depression is not fully understood. It’s thought that biological, psychological and environmental factors all play a role. Life events that may trigger the development or increase the severity of depression include a death, divorce or family trauma, poor academic performance, financial hardship, a romantic breakup, the end of a friendship and drug or alcohol abuse. Chronic stress and some medications and illnesses are also believed to play a role in causing depression. All people - regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status - can be become clinically depressed.
Nearly 1 out of every 10 college students has been diagnosed with depression. As many as half experience symptoms but don’t seek treatment. Some studies have shown that just under half of all students will experience at least one bout of depression so strong that it will have a significant negative impact on their lives during college. The best estimate is that 15 percent of students meet the criteria for a diagnosis of clinical depression. Twice as many women are diagnosed with depression as men (although this may be due to the fact that women are more likely to seek treatment).
Am I Depressed?
Not everyone who’s clinically depressed will experience every symptom listed below, and the severity of symptoms can be highly variable. The symptoms of depression may last for months and even years if left untreated and may worsen to the point of causing an individual to commit suicide.
Common symptoms of depression include:
- Low energy and motivation
- Trouble concentrating, remembering things and making decisions
- Social withdrawal and self-imposed isolation
- A persistent sadness or feelings of emptiness, hopelessness or worthlessness
- Decreased interest in and less pleasure obtained from activities that were previously enjoyed
- Problems with sleep, including both insomnia and sleeping too much
- Lowered sex drive
- Changes in appetite and weight loss / gain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Types of Depression
The three most common types of depression are:
- Major depression. This is also called clinical depression, major depressive disorder and unipolar depression. It’s characterized by a combination of most of the symptoms listed above. Major depression can put a great strain on your life and prevent you from carrying out the duties of day-to-day life. It may occur in the form of a single episode or as a series of recurring episodes. Episodes last as long as six to nine months.
- Dysthymia. This is along the same lines as major depression, but with less severe symptoms. Though it tends to endure for a long time, most students who suffer from dysthymia are able to lead a relatively normal life. However, sufferers tend to always feel unwell. They are also prone to episodes of major depression.
- Bipolar disorder. This type of depression is sometimes called manic-depression. It’s less common than the other depressive disorders. Symptoms include cyclical mood swings that encompass extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). In the depressed stage, all the typical symptoms of major depression may be present. In the manic stage, symptoms include an abundance of energy, decreased ability to make rational decisions and feelings of euphoria.
Depression is a disease. No one can just snap their fingers and feel happy again. If depression is a problem in your life, speak to a counselor or healthcare professional. If you suspect that someone you know may be depressed, assist them in getting the help they need.
If you’re diagnosed with depression, your treatment options may include:
- A prescription for anti-depressant medication
- Relaxation therapies including massage, acupuncture, hypnosis and aromatherapy